Wilkins Block Party may not have been what you would expect from a typical block party where an entire street is shut down to accommodate festivities. Instead two stages were situated on a dead end street and parking area, nestled behind houses in the residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. The spot is quite unassuming, but some how works perfectly.
5615 Wilkins Avenue was a creative space for a community of artists, scientists, mathematicians, programmers and playwrights studying at Carnegie Mellon University. The house was also the practice space for local blues rock, jam outfit Memphis Hill, after drummer Collin Cherubim moved in. His roommate, drama student Jon Mark came up with the idea of the block party as an alternative to CMU’s Spring Carnival in 2013.
“The Wilkins Block Party started as an idea I had after reflecting on the difference between CMU’s carnival weekend and the spring weekends I experienced when visiting high school friends at other schools. There seemed to be something missing in my spring weekend that I had experienced elsewhere and I was determined to fill that void in a way that would both improve the student life experience and bring together the student community,” said Mark on the festivals website.
“The first year Memphis Hill and a handful of bands performed on the pavement as students celebrated the arrival of spring. Over the years the focus has shifted more and more towards the music,” said Alex Halloway, bassist for Memphis Hill. 2014 even saw the debut of Beauty Slap, the electronic brass band that has been taking the city by storm. “What started out as a humble block party has transformed into a veritable music festival,” he continues
Memphis Hill has taken over the operations of the fest from permits, booking bands, coordinating food trucks to bringing in Habitat for Humanity and the countless other things that make the day run smoothly.
“The event this year was better than ever before,” said Halloway. With weather in the 70’s, fans came out to support great local music for a great cause. The food trucks kept everyone there longer and the good vibes were plenty. Easily one of the top events of the spring, all while raising $1000 for Habitat for Humanity.